By STEVE JACKSON
Five of the South Shore boys basketball teams, Sumner, East Bay, Spoto, Lennard, and Riverview, all opened play this week for district championships and a possible spot in the state playoffs.
Sumner finished atop 7A District 11 and was awarded a first round bye, set to open its playoff run Feb 8. The Stingrays will meet at Sumner the winner of Newsome versus Lakewood Ranch. If Sumner, coached by Ryan Bethoney, wins they play for the District championship Saturday, Feb. 10.
The 9-13 Spoto Spartans of Coach Waymond Reed, opened 5A D8 postseason action early this week at the 11-14 Freedom Patriots. The winner moves on to grapple Feb. 8 with the powerhouse Blake High, who moved on thanks to a bye. That District 8 championship is scheduled for Feb. 10.
Spoto concluded the regular season last week at 1-2, nipping Jefferson High 64-63. The Spartans fell before Alonso High and Hillsborough High.
Coach Chris Putnam’s Lennard Longhorns hosted the 13-12 overall 5-2 district Tampa Bay Tech in the first round of post season action in 6A D10 Feb 6.
Last week Lennard dropped its last two regular season games. First, the Horns lost to Jefferson 64-54. Then, later in the week, Gaither squeezed out a 66-60 victory over Lennard. The Longhorns completed the regular season 8-15 overall and 3-6 in district.
The amazing East Bay Indians hope to continue a remarkable comeback season. Coach Jeff Turner in his first year with EB posted a 10-12 mark overall 3-4 in district. First up for EB was an early week contest with 7-16 Manatee County High at Palmetto. Another Indian victory would keep EB in the hunt for a district championship on Feb. 10. Last season the Indians had a dismal 0-19 record.
East Bay took care of two weak opponents last week to end its regular season with two straight wins. Middleton was the first victim of EB, falling to the Indians 54-49. Later, Strawberry Crest was edged by EB 56-52.
The Riverview Sharks continued their eight game losing streak last week, dropping their overall record to 3-18. To open the 7A D11 tourney, Coach Anthone Corpening hosted 4-21 Strawberry Crest on Feb. 6. A win and Riverview continues its District Tournament action Feb. 8. Recent losses of the Sharks include Gaither, Armwood, and Steinbrenner.
This is the initial season of a new District and Region system to determine a state champ. It relies on a modification form of the MaxPreps computer rankings, according to state high school sports officials. Only district tourney champions qualify automatically for the postseason. The other playoff berths, four per region per class, are allocated based on the FHSAA (Florida High School Athletic Association) version of the MaxPreps rankings. District champions, decided Feb. 10, automatically receive the first through fourth seed in their respective regions. Regional play starts quarterfinals for 2A through 7A Feb. 15, Regional semifinals are Feb. 20, and Regional finals are Feb.23. Dates for state championships in 5A through 7A are March 6, 7, and 8.